Sorry if I am being too technical, but I just can’t help myself. You know me – such a tech head. Joke. Continue reading
One can buy very good bought curry pastes nowadays, but there is just something extra-bright and fresh about a homemade paste. And it isn’t hard to make: I just pop everything into the bowl of my little mini chop thingy* and press ‘on.’ It is that easy. Continue reading
Despite the clearly undisguised green of this green smoothie, I pretty much guarantee that once sipped even the the most stridently anti-greens guy or gal will at least say, ‘hmm, not as bad as I thought it was going to be.’ Score!
If they are actually scared to try it either say 1) ‘will you just get over yourself’ (my option if I’ve had no sleep), or 2) ‘I will pay you. Just try it.’ Or a combination of the two.
If it is your good self who is unaccountably afraid of the big bad green smoothie, just take a gander at the ingredients: pineapple, clementine, banana. And a little bit of spinach. The mild, baby stuff. If you can handle the more bitter end of the leafy greens – I’m talking about kale really – go for it. The more bitter the better from a nutrition and disease-prevention standpoint.
Whether a novice green smoothie maker/imbiber or not, most fruit (and vegetable) smoothies are best if at least one of the ingredients is frozen. I know you can use ice – and I sometimes do – but having a secret squirrel stash of chopped bananas and/or pineapple in the deep freeze makes it ‘creamier,’ colder and not at risk of being watered down. The matcha tea is entirely optional but I always have a tin of it (owing to a mild addiction to cold green tea with lemon, even in the winter) so tend to put it in smoothies whatever the ingredients. And the citrus enhances green tea’s anti-cancer properties.
To be perfectly honest I would not advocate having something like this every day. I think whole fruits are better because it is easier to know when you have had enough – calories and satiety. But this kind of smoothie is a great way to get green-haters to at least try their enemy and have an opportunity to like them. And homemade smoothies are completely under your control – adjust the taste and amount to your liking, and know exactly what is in it and how fresh it is. Fantastic for control freaks like myself.
So, are you in?
A cracking way to start the day – a bit tangy, a bit sweet, and a bit green. And there’s green tea powder too if you are like me and don’t do coffee.
The level of deliciousness hinges on the ripeness of the pineapple; don’t go to all the trouble of hacking up an unripe one, just opt for best quality canned or bottled. I’ve never had to do that, but perhaps I’ve just been lucky. Here’s a guide to choosing a ripe pineapple.
1 ripe banana, frozen if possible*
Double handful of baby spinach leaves, or other mild greens of choice, washed (about 2 packed cups)
1 cup diced fresh or quality canned pineapple (frozen too if you can) OR kiwi, peeled
2 clementines, mandarins or satsumas OR 1 large orange, peeled
2 tsp powdered green tea (Japanese-style matcha, not instant) – optional
1 cup almond milk or other milk of choice
5 ice cubes if not using frozen fruit
1. Add all to a blender and blitz until creamy-smooth like an old-fashioned milkshake. Drink immediately.
Note: You can leave out the banana (I’m not a big banana fan) but it does add greatly to the texture, and the pineapple pretty much neutralizes any strong banana taste. Add another banana if you like a more tropical, or sweeter, taste. Or, how about a kiwi?
As a thank you for reading yesterday’s ‘bumper post’ (i.e. tediously long) on Black Bean Quinoa Chili, today I give you the much shorter companion post of Simple Guacamole. This stripped-back version of the popular dip is the perfect foil for a more complex dish like chili. And a must-have for parties and Super Bowl gatherings. But guacamole is superb with – and indeed in – so many other foods. Because guacamole really needs no introduction I will just let this easy and healthy recipe speak for itself.
The only secret to a good guacamole is to use perfectly ripe avocados, a little salt and a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. After that, it is down to personal taste. Below the recipe I give add-in suggestions, ideas for how to use guacamole, and hints on how to know when an avocado is ripe.
How do you like your guac?
2 perfectly ripe Hass avocados (see below)
½ lime (or lemon)
½ tsp good salt, like Maldon
Because you aren’t going to be making pretty slices with the avocado, the easiest way of removing the stone is to squeeze the avocado, then slice it in half lengthways – the stone loosens with the initial pressure. Remove the stone (tip of knife/spoon/fingers) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Immediately squeeze in the lime or lemon juice and crumble in the salt.
Mash well with a fork or a pastry cutter (shown). Most people like their guacamole at least a little chunky so don’t be too enthusiastic with the mashing. Serve immediately, or cover with cling film/food wrap so that it is touching the surface – this helps prevent oxidation/browning.
We find guacamole – and avocados generally – are best at room temperature and used within one or two days. This isn’t a food for keeping. But then again, why would you?
¼ tsp each of garlic and onion powder (store cupboard option – what I often do)***
½ red onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium tomato, deseeded, degorged and finely chopped
Jalapeno or serrano chili, deseeded and diced
A few tablespoons of good quality salsa (or homemade, of course)
½ tsp ground cumin
A dash or two of hot sauce or chipotle in adobo
A few tablespoons of fine curd cottage cheese or Quark – to extend the guacamole or make each serving slightly lower in fat (up the seasoning too)
Watermelon, fine dice
Roasted and chopped peppers
Pomegranate seeds (very nice option)
Chopped leaves and soft stem of coriander/cilantro leaves
What to do with your Simple Guacamole. Of course it is perfect with raw vegetables and tortilla chips. But here are a few more ideas:
as a mayonnaise substitute in sandwiches (beautiful with a chicken, bacon or turkey sandwich)
to top chili and in baked potatoes
in quesadillas; on tostados and huevos rancheros
on toast with chopped tomatoes (one of our fave quick breakfasts)
mix into eggs/soft tofu for scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu (yes, really)
add to grain and bean salads
stir into pasta with extra lime and some chilli and tomatoes
mix with hard egg yolk for devilled eggs, or with chopped egg for a no-mayo egg salad.
You get the picture.
Here is a short video to help you decide if your avocado is ripe.
In addition, it is good to look at the little stem knob – flick it off and if it is yellow-green underneath it is ripe, if it is brown – give it a miss as it is already gone over. If you can’t flick it off (i.e. you have to twist it) it will usually need another day or two. Keep ripe avocados in the refrigerator until you use them. To ripen avocados (or at least try to – some never will), pop into a paper bag with another fruit. Or for a slower ripening, just set the under-ripe avocado on top of a bowl of fruit. See this link to ripening avocados for further options and explanations – and a tip NOT to try.
***Low Residue Diet-friendly option
It will not have escaped many people that this weekend is Super Bowl Sunday. I know it is about the culmination of many months of blood, sweat and tears – and that’s just the fans – but there is also a whole lot of eating going on. According to this article, Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day of food consumption in the US. This annual fixture is beaten only by the holiday for which Lycra was created – Thanksgiving. Continue reading
My Rachel, the ‘pop picker’ for food to glow, is smack in the middle of exams. And what does a teen with a heavy diet of exams need? Yup, home cooking. They may want crisps and chocolate and those horrid, blue caffeine-loaded drinks, but we know – and they do too – that good food, in steady doses, is what brain and body need under stress. And a three-hour paper on teleological ethics (nah, me neither) sounds pretty stressful to me. Continue reading
This simple pasta, black bean and butternut squash dish is something that I have been making off and on for over 25 years. I’m not sure where I first got the idea, but as it has stood the test of time I thought I might share it. There is little skill involved, just a willingness to chop a few things, roast one or two and toss them together. No sauces, no tricky timings – it is pretty easy. And really rather nice, as things involving pasta tend to be. Continue reading
Week in and week out during the winter months some of us find a curious addition to our delivered or CSA vegetable box. Nestled in amongst the common-as-muck dirty potatoes and carrots, under a canopy of cabbage and kale, lurks a mystery vegetable. Knobbly or smooth, these baseball-sized ghostly green or imperiously purple orbs offer a dilemma to many: what are these things, and what the heck do I do with them. Most likely they are kohlrabi. And they are delicious. Continue reading
Although it is eye-searingly bright here in Edinburgh, the temperature has dropped and I have treated myself to a morning of central heating. I don’t usually keep the heat on for myself (even though the cats stand by the gas fire with pleading, unblinking eyes) but I have got so used to the ‘balmy’, ‘warm’ upper 40s/low 50sF of the past few weeks that I have tripped the switch and am currently basking in its invisible glow.
Elsewhere in the UK towns and villages are submerged under flood waters, and further afield there is the horrendous sounding polar vortex sucking heat from air and life from an economy. So, if there is any time of year when we really need good healthy, energy-giving food to cheer us up, it is dark, frigid apologetic January. Though we tend to think of January as a barren month for food, or one legitimately given up to slow cooking, much of its frosty offerings are of the healthy and fresh kind. Continue reading
This will be the quickest, most minuscule of posts from me. Like you no doubt, this week and next see me hither and thither as a whirling dervish of activity. All pleasant, but frenzied nonetheless. Today, for example, was spent cooking and catering for a party at work, accompanying an elderly lady to a Christmas Carol party for people with dementia, getting lost twice in the car (once was definitely Google map’s fault!), and now out to a late supper with Mr A’s parents. This will probably sound lame to some of you, but to little old homebody me it is busy enough.
But I did want to just pass along my Fresh Cranberry Vinaigrette to you, in case you were stumped for jazzy ways to perk up any leafy greens or salads that might cross your path over the next week or two. I have served this at work on seasonal mixed leaves that have had either pomegranate arils, black grapes, and toasted whole almond on top (pictured), and with cross-cut clementines, dried sour cherries, toasted seeds and avocado. At home we like a luxury non-vegan salad of sliced pear, pomegranate arils, freshly crumbled Roquefort cheese and toasted walnuts. Simple stuff to act as a lovely sharp foil to richer foods. Green salads are just the start though: what about massaging it into some chopped kale leaves, in a coleslaw (instead of the dressing I put in this recipe), or even to drizzle over a leftover turkey/ham pie? I will make sure to keep a jam jar of this vinaigrette on standby for those inevitable times when a restorative whole-food salad is in order.
Without further chit chat from me, here’s our favourite winter salad dressing. Enjoy! K x
Dress your winter leaves in this pretty pink dressing made with fresh cranberries. Use fruit vinegar if you have it, or apple cider vinegar. I prefer a neutral oil like rapeseed rather than olive oil here – let the cranberries be the star. If you like, substitute 2 of the tablespoons of rapeseed oil/canola oil for walnut oil.
Cranberries – 30g (1/3 cup)
Raspberry or other fruit vinegar OR apple cider vinegar – 2 tbsp
Rapeseed/Canola oil – 6 tbsp
Dijon Mustard – 2 tsp
Water to thin as you like (I add about 2 tbsp)
Honey or Maple Syrup– 1-2 tbsp (to your liking)
Salt and Pepper – to taste